“My first instict was to take a picture. Yes, I am a photographer”
Human relationships are not easy, which is why I had not left my flat in three days until I saw Úlfar’s photograph on a Berlin Facebook page I follow. We forget, project, reject, ignore, betray and dissapoint each other. We lack and misundersand empathy, sympathy and compassion. We are the worst enemies of each other, yet we are also the only hope for one another.
I had been sitting at home, on my own, trying to go back to that point where I once felt motivated, by doing nothing but sleeping or watching something since Sunday. Then a Facebook notification appeared on the right side of my desktop. A beautiful boy in my beautiful city had been attacked because of his femininity and he was calling people who had been through similar experiences to share their stories through him. An hour later, we were sitting at k-fetisch.
Who are you?
My name is Úlfar Loga. I come from Iceland, Reykjavík and I’ve been living in Berlin for the past two years doing my Bachelor’s in Photography. I also work as a part-time model.
Can you tell us what exactly happened to you?
Last Sunday morning I was walking out of the U-Bahn station Neukölln. I was walking up the stairs with my friend. And this guy who was standing at the top of the stairs started shouting at me: “Hey, ladyboy!” When I came up to the top of the stairs I said “Excuse me?” and the next thing I know I am lying on the stairs, after the guy punched me and I blacked out for a few seconds or a minute with blood in my mouth.
What happened when you opened your eyes, was he still there?
Well, there was another guy standing next to him so I didn’t differentiate who it was. When I woke up one of them came up to me and said “Are you okay, are you okay?” My first reaction was to push him away but then I started to get my senses back and realize he was just being nice. He brought me water and I thanked him.
So the one who did it just ran away?
So eventually we went outside and sat on a bench and my friend called the police and the man was still around! He was with a group of people. My friend who is German called the police and they said they would send someone. Ten minutes had passed, the man was still there and the police wasn’t. So I called them again, rather upset. “Can I talk to someone in English?” I asked. I waited in line for a while and finally connected to someone who was not helpful at all. I was still very upset and I asked him again, screaming, “Why is the police still not here?” He responded in a very arrogant way, saying “This is not how we do things in Germany” then hung up on me. I called again and asked “Can I speak to someone in English” and they said “No, he doesn’t want to talk to you”. I asked for his name, and they hung up on me again. They hung up twelve times.
How does all of this make you feel? How are your feelings changing as time goes by?
It makes me feel very upset. Even the twelft time my friend called in German and had the speaker on, they were saying something like “He was so rude, I did not want to help him” as far as I could understand but what’s worse here is that I could hear them laughing in the background. Eventually we went home and just sat until I calmed down.
It sounds like the reaction of the police hurt you more than the attack itself?
Yes! I know that I am never going to catch this guy. What I am really upset about is the way the police handled this. They made me feel like I am a second class citizen.
Can you empathize with the guy at all?
Yes, he obviously has troubles, his demons. He apparently feels the need to express them by hitting other people who are expressive enough. So yes, I feel sorry for him, that he has to do this.
Did this experience have a perspective changing impact on you?
No, I am being stared at in the U-Bahn every day. I have been sexually harrassed so many times. But it was the first time I have been attacked in Berlin. I have been attacked once more in Reykjavík, it was a very similar situation.
People have been coming after me all my life. This is nothing new for me. I have decided not to live in fear. That decision has already been made. I don’t let fear get to me because if I do, it will take over and that is something I will not let them do. Because if I do, they will win.
What do you want to do next?
I told my teacher what happened at the weekend and he said, “This is your strength, use it.” So I want to interview people, get their testimonials and take a portrait of them. The reaction of people had been phenomenal so far. It’s amazing, but the problem here is still the reaction of the police, the way they handle these situations. What I think is most important right now is to get people who are fit to the job to answer the phone calls. Because I actually think the police in the field handle these situations very well. I feel safe around the police here. It’s people who answer the phones, they have not been trained properly. I am also going to meet the LGBT Rights Organization this week and try to get the phone recordings out there. I want them to be heard.
Úlfar reminded me how much we all need compassion, especially when we had just been hurt by life. He also reminded me of all the times I had failed to show the compassion people around me needed. His beauty and strength motivated me to leave my flat, talk to him and share his story with you. We might have failed in human relationships before, but it is never too late to shake the shame off and help each other to live an easier life, where beauty is more visible than blood, like in Úlfar’s photograph.
Nazli Koca is a writer and dreamer based in Berlin. It’s very likely that you will run into her while she is writing in the train or reading at Spoken Word events around Rathaus Neukölln. If you live in a city far far away, you can read more of her stuff at rhnk.tumblr.com